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Buzz: NXP puts TriMedia on sale

Posted: 12 Jan 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:TriMedia sale? multimedia processor? consumer electronics?

NXP Semiconductors is looking for buyers to take over TriMedia!the company's once most coveted VLIW multimedia processor, EE Times has learned.

Those with potential interest in TriMedia's intellectual properties are said to be in the Consumer Electronics Show but it is not known who has actually accepted invitations to the negotiation table.

Sources at NXP confirmed that some of the company's TV and STB ICs still use TriMedia!deeply embedded in SoCs or general purpose DSPs.

However, once NXP's TV and STB business units spun off become part of the new Trident Microsystems as planned (the transaction is expected to close next month), it is not clear how critical a role TriMedia will play in the new company's combined future roadmap.

NXP sources made it clear that NXP remains the sole owner of TriMedia IPs, not the new Trident. While the rights to use TriMedia will be transferred to Trident, what NXP will do with TriMedia IPs is up to them, they explained.

To keep TriMedia processors in-house, maintain its architecture and advance it in the future, however, will require substantial resources including a dedicated engineering team and financial investment. It is highly doubtful that NXP chief Rick Clemmer will pursue such an option, at a time when his focus remains in intensive restructuring at NXP.

NXP's latest move to put TriMedia on sale marks the end of an era, when both Royal Philips Electronics, the Dutch consumer electronics giant, and Philips Semiconductors (spun off from Royal Philips as NXP in 2006) made significant investments in the development of TriMedia architecture, with a firm belief that a unique multimedia processor would advance their lead in the digital consumer electronics market!both in semiconductors and system businesses.

With much fanfare, Philips Semiconductors introduced its first commercial TriMedia product in 1996, pitching it as an advanced multimedia CPU featuring many DSP and SIMD operations, specifically designed to efficiently process audio and video streams.

The future of TriMedia, however, was already precarious in 2006 when a private equity consortium led by U.S buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts bought about 80 percent of NXP.

Particularly since Clemmer took NXP's helm more than a year ago, NXP has been busy shedding some of its major business operations!including the wireless IC business (now a part of ST-Ericsson) and TV/set-top semiconductor business units (now becoming new Trident). The remaining NXP will be a much smaller company, with specific focus on automotive, identification, high performance mixed signal and standard product IC businesses.

Strangely enough, this is not the first time the Dutch company has sought to sell TriMedia. In 2000, Philips spun out its TriMedia business as a pure IP vendor called TriMedia Technologies Inc. But without getting much traction from many chip vendors to license TriMedia cores, the spun-off company was quickly folded back into Philips by 2003.

How much TriMedia, once pitched as Philips' crown jewel, is worth today is anybody's guess.

The role of TriMedia processor has significantly changed over time!from its original vision as a dedicated multimedia co-processor working with MIPS side-by-side, to modular Trimedia CPU cores with standardized interfaces that can be easily integrated inside audio video SoCs. Rather than taking over the entire media-processing role, Trimedia cores now often function more as DSPs to assist operations for H.264, for example.

- Junko Yoshida
EE Times

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